Some human beings cannot help themselves. They have an impossible to suppress sense of adventure and enjoy trying things which are entirely alien to their ever-limited scope of ever-expanding interests. For the longest time, I loved tabletop role-playing immensely. It pretty much defined my childhood with how much of my time and passion it consumed. Of course, being a girl in a male-centric game setting wasn't always easy but I played well with others and tolerated their treatment of a newcomer or a seemingly naive female well over the years because tabletop role-play was a personal and social activity and players and dungeon masters alike valued their reputations in tightly knit social circles.
Bearing this in mind, I eagerly set out to try my luck with the online role-playing community. For once, all of my role-playing circles were becoming rather inactive due to various individuals having a lot going on in their lives at once. For the first time in my life, I had to dive into the dangerously anonymous and troll ridden environment known as The Internet. New Worlds Ateraan, they called it. Seemed like a wonderful idea at the time! A somewhat generous list of races to play. Decent enough guild choices despite there not being many to choose from. A promise of role play being wonderful, active, and very much in character. I would invest many hours of my time into enriching myself with knowledge of the game mechanics, lore, and story of this world. And many more hours were sunk into creating a genuinely unique character to explore it. I pride myself in putting much thought into my characters, you see, for I do not right stories or participate in role play as anything even close to resembling an amateur. I do this for a decent living already but want to have some fun with it from time to time.
But one Ateraan player with a little seniority over me in this specific setting couldn't help but throw some vaguely out of character shade my way using her in character dialogue to call me a stupid, ignorant newbie and contrive some sort of harassing dramatic role-play with me when I refused to lick her boots. In a tabletop environment, this usually ends rather quickly with a dungeon master fading it out for what it is and giving the encounter a redo or even kicking a toxic member out of the aprty for a while if it continues to come up as an issue. This facilitates keeping a clean role-play environment free of OOC stupidity negatively affecting an IC world. It also facilitates reducing a delay in story progression over this becoming a recurring argument between players.
Almost supernaturally, the way Norman -a staff member of New Worlds Ateraan- handled this, a not too uncommon instance of bullying a newbie bleeding into in character dialogue, was by investigating an immediate false claim by the harassing perpetrator herself and her friends that I was breaking another entirely unrelated rule. This suspiciously escalated the problem to Norman himself and sidelined my own claim entirely even when I was found innocent.
Amusingly, even the most objective of evidence was not used to resolve my issue with the player of the character named Shadeau and I was eager to debate my disagreement with Norman. Norman was eager and willing to participate in this debate rather than close it, himself. And since he could not convince me to agree with him, he banned me from using all out of characters channels on New Worlds Ateraan. There not being a rule that I have to agree with him, he had abused his power to shut me up rather than use his power properly by telling me to drop it. In fact, if he had wished me to drop it, he had plenty of opportunities to tell me to do so. I could have then done so. And if I had continued then, I would have only then been guilty of breaking the rules of New Worlds Ateraan and had earned myself any sort of punishment. He then could have explained his community's sideways rules to me using the proper English that was missing in all of the help files combined.
Rather than take this lying down like so many girl gamers, I gladly shared the issue with a few willing Guides. Eagerly, Norman imprisoned me within a private the gaming environment so I was unable to speak with anyone else at all in order to shut me up entirely because his good oldbie friends were kissing his boots and disagreeing with me to be on his best side despite quickly piling objective facts adding up to his disfavor. I got to spend some time imprisoned for deigning to disagree with the Gods of New Worlds Ateraan, a place I am sure is full to the rafters with individuals who have role played far less than myself and probably wouldn't last five minutes in a meeting with publishers who have me on a first name basis and exchange birthday cards with me.
First impressions of Ateraan? There is not enforced role-play as advertised, but Enforced Role-Play Lite™. If someone bleeds OOC bullying of you being a newbie into IC dialogue as a form of contrived nipping social competition in the bud like this is middle school, you will be forced to break the game's own rules and role-play being harassed unfairly IC as the bullying is then compounded into unfair IC gossip and lies and it becomes outright bullying in a game that pretends to be newcomer friendly.
Penultimately, the staff members of the game are barely aware of the concept of role-play. Ultimately, they are incapable of maintaining a safe and friendly role-playing environment as a result of that. And finally nailing the coffin firmly shut, their own pride matters more than their own rules being clearly written and politely enforced.
As a sidebar, the conveniently made up unwritten rule that OOC harassment issues should be handled IC used as the excuse to bully me about rather than teach me said rule as a newcomer from literally dozens of other communities that would never ever do things that way doesn't really help me trust these people to be anything but extremely shady. If they were wise, they would have been a lot nicer to me and tricked some donation money out of me before revealing the truth that they hate new people learning how to play their game and want them to suffer miserably their vaguely excused wrongdoings for hours.
If you are a good human being and play Ateraan, I pray that you find a better-led community soon with similarly promising world building. But for the rest... Well, you made your bed and you can lie in it for all I care. Especially those of you who blindly defend unwritten, vague, or just made up rules and punishments. Perhaps I will consider reviewing this MUD specifically in my own community while I tear apart the socially incompatible mess that is the typical MUD in my experiences so far. Perhaps I will not. It depends on how angry I still am by the time I compile my information into my own content.
Roleplay isn't an MMO. You don't just get to bully people for being new. And you don't just get to pass poorly written garbage as rules. And you don't just get to repeatedly silence someone for pointing out that bullying needs to be resolved OOC for role-play to be fun. That's like yelling at newbies that they're wrong while simultaneously giggling you're sticking up for someone you've literally known five seconds longer and like more than your community growing, surviving and improving. That's, in fact, a perfect tutorial on how to get a stale, dying community with nothing but hesitantly returning people who probably are only returning because they sank a lot of time, money, and creative juice into your game.
This unfortunate incident aside, I really could use some tips on which MUDs are actually playable and have staff members that do not make excuses, ask loaded questions, or even outright spin topics to be right when, fundamentally in the sense of role-playing itself, they are so painfully wrong every moment they touch their keyboards. I want my content when I review the MUD community as a whole to have at least a shred of hope in it. I'll make money whether I rip on MUDs in general or not, so it benefits only yourselves and the potential curiosity of my own readers enriching your own communities to prove that MUD can be safe, fair, and fun.
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